Egyptian Coup for Dummies: Media edition
OK, media colleagues. Let's get this straight: A coup by any other name is still a coup, in Egypt or anywhere around the world. So quit the harping already. You're obsessed by the fact that the first democratically-elected President in Egypt in 50,000 years has been overturned by the military, and that it's not democracy. You're wrong. It is. If you look in the dictionary democracy is the will of the people. And in Egypt that is exactly what happened. Why did it happen and why is it a possible good turn for the Arab Spring, the Middle East and democracy? Very simple, the man who was deposed and elected fairly had taken that democracy and made himself a modern day pharaoh. He simply declared that he could rule by decree, ignore the parliament and the courts, and enact any law at will. He also arrested any opposition to his rule, more opponents in one year then in all 25 years of his predecessor, Hosni Mubarak. That is not democracy it's a dictatorship.
Let's compare that to the U.S. It would be like a president no longer listening to the legislature or the courts, ignoring any law Congress passes, and throwing out any elected officials who don't agree with them.
When it happened in Egypt, the people took to the streets. They said that President Morsi had hijacked their new-found democracy. They gathered not in the thousands, not in the tens of thousands, not even in the hundreds of thousands. They gathered in millions. CNN reported 33 million people in the streets. From a population standpoint, that would be like 60 million Americans marching on Washington, D.C. That would be considered popular support here, but guess what? In our entire history, that figure of support for any issue has never brought out such an outpouring of support. We've never had 60 million people come out for anything. In Egypt, that is democracy speaking with the people's voices. If that happened in this country, the president would most likely compromise, but not so in Egypt. The President went on national television and refused to submit to the people's will or even compromise.
What media has ignored in this story is that the people only asked the military to intervene if their President would not compromise. The people said he could stay in power, but with a checks and balances system, like we have in the U.S. But he declined, and only then did the military move.
Here are the salient points. This is a young revolution. The American Revolution took years. Did you know we had Presidents running our country before Washington? Did you know that good old George had to take an army to quash a rebellion while he was President. Being a democracy is messy.
But the reality is there are three prime reasons that the people of Egypt moved. The Islamic president was pulling their country into a Muslim state, giving much power to his Muslim Brotherhood party. He was so immersed in making that happen that he ignored the basic needs of the people: food, water, power and the economy. And lastly he decreed himself a dictator and when he did so the people realized that this descent would continue.
What will follow is unknown, but the first Islamic government bent on creating a Islamist state has failed. That is a powerful message that is reverberating throughout the Middle East. The people by their feet have stated one of our principals: the separation of church and state. This might very well be a lasting legacy of the Arab spring. Only time will tell.
Mark Segal, publisher of the Philadelphia Gay News, has been recognized by the National Newspaper Association, Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association, Suburban Newspapers of America and the Society of Professional Journalists, among others. He can be reached via Facebook or Twitter.